FRIDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 5 VS. INDIANAPOLIS
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Good morning. It's good to see everyone. Just a quick recap of last week: I thought our guys are coming out, playing hard [and] playing well. It's good to see. I think we're getting a lot out of our guys right now. Moving forward to 'Indy' [Indianapolis], this is going to be a good challenge for our guys, because I think we're playing well, we're playing hard, and we understand that we're about to go face a really good unit on special teams. So, we're going to keep practicing. We're going to keep working hard, and we're going to get ready to play a game on Monday night. Questions?"
What has DB Kevon Seymour brought to the special teams group? I know he forced one of those touchbacks by kind of staying on the block there. Overall, how important has he been to your unit? (Jeff Zrebiec) "'Key' [Kevon Seymour] has been really outstanding for us ever since we got him. He's played in this league, he's played a lot of reps, and he's done everything we've asked of him. He comes out here, he works hard, and he just wants to be good. So, what he's truly brought is he gives us speed down the field as a gunner – a guy who can get down there and make some plays. Man, it's been really good to have him on our team."
WR Devin Duvernay kind of mentioned how he had never returned punts in high school or college. What did you see in him to say, "I think this guy could do it and be pretty good at it?" (Jamison Hensley) "One of the first things, I think we always think about, as coaches, as we go through it and realize, 'You know what? We only have James [Proche II] returning punts. Who is the next guy? Who's going to return for us?' Every day, we put Devin [Duvernay] back there. The most important thing is catching the football. That's one thing we preach a lot and talk about – ball security. You have to be able to catch the football first before we can give you an opportunity. He showed that, he came out here and I'd have conversations with [special teams coach] Randy [Brown] and [tight ends coach] Bobby [Engram] every day about, 'What do you think? How's he doing?' We watched the tape, and we're like, 'Man, he's catching them well. He's catching them well.' Then we got in that situation at the end of the year where we needed a [roster] spot, and I think we all felt really good about what we had going into it. We just had to give him an opportunity. That's really the most important thing, giving a guy an opportunity. Good football players find ways to make plays."
Is there a certain skill though for a punt return knowing the player is supposed to be focusing on the ball, but they know that there's about 10 or 11 guys coming out trying to crush him? (Jamison Hensley) "It's definitely one of those decision-making things, and again, not every guy can do it. It takes a skillful person to be able to go back there and catch punts. I've seen really good receivers not be able to go back there and catch that ball. That ball is up there four [to] eight seconds, and it's like you said, you have a guy running down the field. 'Alright, do I fair catch this thing? Can I catch this ball? Can I get yards?' So, there are a lot of things that go into it, and he's proven, man. He's shown up a lot, and I think our guys, we all really appreciate him."
Does he have the mentality? RB Nyheim Hines, the Colts returner, yesterday went viral for saying, 'I don't care about my life,' when he's going back for a punt return. That's just the kind of mentality that he feels he has to take. (Jonas Shaffer) "… That's kind of … (laughter) I guess, if you think about it in those terms, because I think we really do care about it. (laughter) I think what he really meant to say was the most important thing is the football. Nobody wants to return the ball when the gunner is running down and you're probably about to get hit. It's all about decision making. I really don't know what he meant by that, but I think our guys do really care about taking big shots back there and putting their team in jeopardy. So, I don't know."
You can't speak on who's up and who's down on any given week, but what does WR Miles Boykin bring to your special teams unit? (Bo Smolka) "When we had Miles [Boykin] up and things like that, Miles played well for us. Again, he's another guy that when he's out there, he executes. He knows our system. He knows what we want, and he knows what we want to get done. He plays the way we want to play football, from an execution standpoint [and] from a technique standpoint. Whenever we get him, we'll be fired up to have him back."
I don't know how long ago, but there used to be a rule where they used to say, "Don't field the punt at a certain part of the field," whether it's inside the 5-[yard line] or whatever. Has that stuff been relaxed over the years? Do you have a rule of thumb that you teach your punt returners that if it's inside the 5-[yard line] you're not to fair catch it? How do you go about coaching that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's a great question. One of the things, because I think I know where you're going with this one … 'Dev' [Devin Duvernay] caught a ball on the 4-yard line, and clearly, we would never want to fair catch a ball on the 4-yard line. Again, we're dealing with a young returner [who] doesn't have a lot of games under his belt. So, he's learning through the process. We put him on the 15-[yard line], we don't expect him to go back as far. We don't really ever want to catch a ball, really, inside the 10-yard line. So, again, it comes back to awareness. He's figuring it out. He caught the ball; he didn't put our team in jeopardy. We start a ball on the 4-yard line, you know what? [If] we punt the ball across the field and now we're on the other side of the 40-[yard line]. We'll make up for it, just don't turn the football over. We'll continue to work those small little details that puts us in, what some would consider, a bad spot."
Did you see the double punt yesterday [in the Rams/Seahawks game]? Is that something that you've seen before? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I didn't see it live; I was sleeping. I have a lot of other things … I didn't watch Thursday Night Football, [because] I have to get ready for the game. So, I was asleep, but I did come in and watched it. I've never seen that happen before. I thought it was a really good play by the punter, just being able to pick that ball up [while it was] spinning, run it and get it off like that. I didn't really know the rule at the time. I studied it, and that was a perfectly legal play – you can have two kicks in the same play. So, it was legal and good for those guys. Hopefully, we're never in those situations, because protect the punt." (laughter)
Still, is that something maybe you bring up to the guys just as a pointer and just for reference? (Jerry Coleman) "Again, hopefully we're never in that situation. We'll watch the play as a unit, because I think we can learn from that. I think the bigger issue is how did the punt get blocked? That's really what we're going to be focusing on, not the double kicks."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "I hope everyone is doing well. It's a beautiful day here in Baltimore. We have a big game coming up Monday night. [We're] honored to be … Anytime you get to play on Monday night. Everybody's grandparents, it doesn't matter if they have rabbit ears [on their TV], [or if they're] streaming, everybody is going to be watching. So, I know players are getting excited. They're really working hard. It's a really good 'Indy' [Indianapolis] defense. It starts with their front; [DeForest] Buckner has just been a game wrecker in there. The nose [tackle] [Grover] Stewart, [Kwitty] Paye, [Al-Quadin] Muhammad and [Tyquan] Lewis, too – these guys are just 'go break glass' kind of guys. So, it's a different style than we've been playing the last two weeks. So, our scout team has really given us a great look. It's definitely, you can tell sometimes early in games these guys, I don't want to say shock their opponent with how up field they are and how fast they go, but it's definitely something we want to be prepared for the moment the ball gets kicked off. Darius Leonard, you have to mention him, the linebackers' leader. That linebacker crew is a sideline-to-sideline group [and] very instinctive in pass coverage. [Darius Leonard] loves following the quarterback's eyes – he knows how to play football. He's a hell of a player. Their secondary, led by [Xavier] Rhodes, they're doing a really nice job. Today is Friday, but it's really [Football] Thursday for us. So, we're working hard through it. Any questions?"
Since you've taken over as offensive coordinator, the identity has bene more of a run offense. QB Lamar Jackson has thrown the ball better than he ever has over the last few games. Do you think, is the identity shifting a little bit? Is there a transition? Or is that too small of a sample size to jump to any conclusions like that? (Jamison Hensley) "I wouldn't jump to any conclusions. We're going to do what we have to do to win each game. Like I mentioned last week, it's not just about the run game. It's about what do you do to complement the run game [and] how you handle situations. We want to be a balanced outfit. It just so happens the last couple weeks that we've chosen, really, that that'd be the best avenue to win the game. Lamar [Jackson] is playing great. He keeps getting better. That's what we keep trying to do – get better every day. We're working hard at it. We know there's a lot of room for improvement, and we're excited about that."
Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week that the only clarity at the running back position is that you have four guys that can all play. What goes into the decision of who is the odd man out any given week? (Bo Smolka) "A lot of different things, but we want to keep guys fresh, too – that's one thing. I definitely wouldn't read too much into that, either. We like all of them. They all have slightly different styles. I think we're really starting to learn more about each one, and that's a big part of it, really, and give each and everybody opportunities. Getting four running backs up for a game, that's hard to do. But I think they're all worthy of it. Le'Veon [Bell] played last week. I thought he played really well in a lot of areas [and] maximized every opportunity he got. But we're continuing to learn and work through that – that's the exciting part."
Are you finding yourself in a similar situation now with the wide receiver corps with WR Rashod Bateman and WR Miles Boykin coming back and trying to decide who's going to be up on Monday? (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, without question. Without question, that's a really good problem to have. You have good problems and bad problems; I like the good ones. So, that's definitely going to be a consideration as well. As the roster gets put together for a game, there's defense, there's special teams, [and] there are a lot of things that go into that. So, the bottom line is for us, really, everybody in that locker room, we have to count on all of them. Because at some point, it could be every week, it could be 14 weeks, 12 weeks, 10 weeks or five weeks – they all have to help the team win."
It's been a few weeks since G Ben Powers and G Ben Cleveland have been rotating at left guard. What are you seeing out of those two? Is it important for one guy to eventually seize that job? Or do you like playing two guys there? (Luke Jones) "I don't mind playing two guys at all – not at all. I think, when I was first here a long time ago, Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda, they rotated early on. So, I think it's an opportunity for Ben Cleveland to get experience but not have to play every play. Also, for the other Ben [Powers], he plays really hard, and it gives him a chance to catch his breath. So, I think we're getting one-and-a-half out of one there. So, we'll continue to do that, and then you're always ready to adjust."
After the disappointing game WR Marquise Brown had in Detroit, how gratifying is it for you as offensive coordinator to see him stretch out and catch that touchdown and get his confidence back? Because you're going to need him and you want him to be confident. (Kirk McEwen) "No question, that was a great moment. It was great for him [and] great for us. We expect him to make every play. He has great hands. He tracks the ball really well. So, I was happy for everybody, but especially him. He's a really important part of what we do, and he's the kind of guy that maybe gets three touches in a game, but those touches totally impact the game. Or he could get a lot more than that, too. So, nobody really blinked at all after that Detroit game, and he's getting back on track."
They're honoring DT Haloti Ngata on Monday night. You had to gameplan against him once upon a time. How much of a problem was he? (Childs Walker) "I was with him and against him; I really liked being with him a lot more. (laughter) He was something. Haloti [Ngata] was just a great person, No. 1, but really an impactful player. You talk about eating two guys up and growing roots on the D-line. [He was] really hard to move, and again, he'd free up linebackers. He could take two all day and not even blink. Really, it's just another great player going in the Ring of Honor which is really … When you look up at the Ring of Honor and read the names, [there are] a lot of impressive guys there for such a young franchise."
If QB Lamar Jackson keeps beating teams with his arm, throwing outside the numbers and throwing deep, how soon do you think opposing defenses will adjust from the 'stop the run' kind of gameplan? (Ryan Mink) "That's a good question. There's a little bit of a cat and mouse game every week with that. We don't get complete, 100%, we're stopping the run every play. They try to mix it, most teams do. Last week was kind of extreme at times, but we're ready for anything. We see a bunch of stuff every week that people don't put on film, and that's kind of our message. They have 11 guys out there; they can do whatever the heck they want with them. We'll figure it out, but we certainly don't expect the same things we see on film every week 100% of the time. I think we're a little bit different, and teams try to draw some stuff up in the dirt. So, we'll see. We'll see. I think it'll be a week-to-week thing, though."
Do you feel a lot more nimble in what you can do as an offense now? (Ryan Mink) "I think so. We're working at it. It's a work in progress. We're still … We had the touchdown called back last week and one the week before – those are the things we have to clean up. But for us now, a gameplan is not like it used to be for me. If they do what we think they're going to do, here's what we're going to do. If they copycat this, we're going to do this. That falls on the players, so they have extra preparation, because we never know what we're going to get."
You mentioned after that Week Two game against Kansas City, you ran 36 completely different runs. How many different runs can you run? Because people have talked … We've talked to people saying you have the biggest playbook they probably have seen. How many different runs can you run? (Jamison Hensley) "Who is saying this?" (Reporter: "Marshal Yanda.") "Oh, OK. That's a good one. Yes, I mean, that's kind of what I was alluding to there. If they want to play that style, we have these plays. That's part of the teaching sequence that we go through starting in the spring. We want guys with malleable minds where if they can understand the concept and know where they fit, we can change things up quite a bit. Quite a few [runs]. We have quite a few [runs]. I'm not putting a number on it, no. No, but it's a lot."
Just kind of a nerdy, big picture question. I think the trend coming into this year that a lot of people expected defensively for how to defend you guys was two high [safeties]. I guess, has that affected how defenses are playing you? What kind of impact does that have on you guys in general? (Jonas Shaffer) "That's a good one. I mean, things kind of work in a cyclical nature. Like the team we're about to play, they have a lot of, I call it, 'Tony Dungy influence' in their defense. There's a bunch of split safety, two-high; [Colts defensive coordinator] Matt [Eberflus] has always done that. I think you definitely see people copy-catting that a little bit, and you expect that. Everything became Cover 3 there for a while. Everybody was kind of following Seattle – not everybody, but a lot of teams. Once people figure out how to unlock that, then they say, 'Oh, we're going to try this.' It's a constant game where things are changing, and you need to understand that. We need to understand that, and I think we have a pretty good grasp on it. But it's definitely, you see some trends changing a little bit, but you always do – you really do."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement? "Coming home from Denver – it was a great trip. Any time that you hold a team [to], in 12 series, you have 10 punts and make them punt the ball 10 times out of 12 series, you're happy, defensively. We're really excited with where we're at, but we're more excited about getting back to our stadium on Monday night. In Baltimore, Monday night; can it be a better place? The way the fans were [against] Kansas City, we're all excited about going back to that – that atmosphere. So, with that, I'll open it up with questions."
You overlapped with DT Haloti Ngata here, and they're honoring him on Monday night. Can you sum up the pleasure of having him in the middle of the defense? (Childs Walker) "The thing that jumps out … First of all, talking about Haloti [Ngata], I can't help but think about [former defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks, too, because Clarence had him as a rookie, and he was so proud of Haloti. The player Haloti – he was one of the most athletic big men I've ever been around. He played the shade, the three, the five; he could have played linebacker. As a matter of fact, when he was coming out as a rookie, there wasn't a D-Line coach there, so he went through linebacker drills. Clarence, and I think [former defensive coordinator] Rex [Ryan] saw it as well, when he was coming out. He is a star, and he was a star when he was playing. He is a star as a person. He was a star as a player. And the thing that you loved the most about him was he never acted that way. He was just a good dude and a great teammate, and I just miss having him around. But I'm glad he's going into the Ring [of Honor]. It's going to be great to see him."
OLB Odafe Oweh just keeps making plays. Do you see him doing one thing better than the other? Do you see his swim move being better than his bull rush? Not to give anything away, but do you see him doing some things better than other things at this stage in his career? (Kirk McEwen) "I think it's way too early to even look at it that way. I think he's a humble kid, that's just working hard and trying to get better every day, and I think that's one of his best traits that he has. So, we're looking forward to every Sunday, or in this case, Monday night, to see what comes next. But he's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's reaping rewards [for] executing defenses and pass rushes and everything else. It's been awesome."
You've seen QB Carson Wentz before. What is the difference with him from the past times you've seen him and what you're seeing now? (Jerry Coleman) "Well, I think when you're taken No. 2 in the Draft, there's obviously a serious talent that he has. I know he was hobbled a little bit early in the year, and he's come back from that. But he's an explosive quarterback that can get the ball down the field, and he has a little magician to him. When you think you have him, all of a sudden, he slips out, and he'll hit somebody 60 yards down the field, right in stride. So, he's a dangerous quarterback to go against – we know that – especially paired with [head coach] Frank [Reich]. You can see that's his comfort zone. He's spreading the ball around. He's getting it to running backs, the tight ends. I told the defensive staff that they're as diverse offensively as we are defensively. And I think they've done a nice job, offensively, of moving the ball around."
There's been a lot of attention paid to the last play of Sunday's game. You're a defensive coach who takes a lot of pride in the identity of this team. What do you make of the discourse? (Jonas Shaffer) "You're trying to start some [stuff], aren't you? (laughter) I think [head coach] John [Harbaugh] answered that fine. I'll just go with that. I think John answered that question fine."
You talked in the first few weeks about how well you guys played for parts of the game, and in other parts of the game, not so well. In general, how pleased were you with the effort and performance over 60 minutes on Sunday? (Luke Jones) "I thought it was great. Like I said, you hold a professional football team to 250 yards, and they punt the ball 10 times. I know our punt return team – I think they already lettered this year. (laughter) That was good. But that was their challenge to each other in the room on Saturday night, and they accomplished it. And they were talking about it the entire game, as well, so I was really happy for them."
A lot of people might have laughed a little bit when you said CB Anthony Averett is playing at a Pro Bowl level. I don't think they're laughing anymore. What are your thoughts on his play? (Kirk McEwen) "I'm happy for him. I'm genuinely happy for the guy himself, because it's one of those things … And we've all seen it – when you go somewhere and you somebody special, and they might not know that they're special yet. He's reaping all the success of all the hard work he's done. And I've said this for three years now about him: He doesn't care who he's covering; he just goes and covers them. And that's what everybody else is seeing now, because he's playing full-time; it's not just on third down, like he was [playing] last year for us. Whatever situation it's been in the past, we know he's our right corner, or left corner, or nickel, or dime. We just don't know where we're going to play him at, but he's going to be covering somebody. We need to get him some sacks, too." (laughter)
DT Justin Madubuike got a sack last week. What have you seen from him in the early part of the season? (Ryan Mink) "Oh, I think he's right on schedule – Justin [Madubuike] is. And he's been playing more on first and second down in the first four games, but he's going to expand his role. He just keeps playing, and he plays hard, and I think it's a really good marriage between him and 'Weav' [run game coordinator/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver]. I think he's really helped him in the run game and also rushing the passer."
You mentioned trying to get CB Anthony Averett a sack. Do the guys in the secondary lobby for sacks over the course of the week? (Luke Jones) (laughter) "No, no. The only one that has really lobbied … Well, no I shouldn't say that. There are a couple. (laughter) Yes, there are a couple. During a game – I think he was mic'd up even – the Bengals game, Marlon [Humphrey] said he wanted a sack, so he got his sack, and that's when he was running off the field saying, 'I'm a sack master.' (laughter) And Jimmy [Smith] – same way. Jimmy Smith is the same way. He made sure he got [Jared] Goff in L.A. on Monday night a few years back. But most of the time they just execute and do their job, and it's a testament to [pass game coordinator/secondary] Chris [Hewitt] and [defensive backs coach] D'Anton [Lynn] and those guys that work in the back end. So, it's been … We're sitting here [at] 3-1; it's crazy right now. So, you've just got to take it one game at a time, and we're really excited about Monday night. And like I said, we're really excited about being home. I mean, that atmosphere was unbelievable [for] the Kansas City game. And if we can match that, they won't be able to snap a ball."
What's the key to DE Calais Campbell playing at such a high level at this stage of his career? (Bo Smolka) "I think that what he did was come in bigger and stronger this year, because he said it took him a year to see exactly where he was going to fit in our defense for himself personally. I think he had a great offseason, [which] is why he's having the success he's having now, and it's great to see. He and Justin [Houston] are both on the chase for 100 sacks – you know that – so it's fun watching that battle, as well."
It seemed like ILB Malik Harrison had a pretty strong game Sunday. When he's executing well, what does he kind of do for your defense? (Jonas Shaffer) "He's an enforcer. He's a thumper, and when he plays to his strengths, he plays really well. He just needs to keep getting more and more experience. Once he sees everything two or three times – different types of scheme runs and different things like that – things click. You can see that he plays really well."
When you have so many offenses in the NFL trying to take advantage of that aggressiveness with play-action, for ILB Malik Harrison to kind of read some of the plays that it looked like he did Sunday, what does that say about him? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think that the game is starting to slow down for him – first of all – on the play-action. But even if he does bite on a run fake, I just tell him, 'Keep going. Don't get halfway and then go, oh, it's a pass, and then run out late. Just keep going. Blame it on me. Just say I blitzed you, and we'll just void that zone and rally to it.' But, like you said, he's playing with some confidence right now."
CB Anthony Averett
On defensive coordinator Don Martindale calling him a Pro Bowl-caliber player, that he always thought Anthony was going to be special even if he didn't know it yet, and that he could cover anybody any day: "It's a blessing just to have a coach like that. Shoot, he gives me even more confidence. And other than just him, my teammates, they all see it, they all know who I am, so all I had to do was just go out there and show it, and I'm going to continue to do that – keep stacking."
On if he expected to be leading the team in interceptions (2) this early on: "No, it's still pretty early. But I'm just going to keep stacking and try to get some more – make some more plays on the ball."
On how important it was to be able to play and play at a high level last week after rolling his ankle: "Yes, staying healthy – that's the name of the game. As you could see, we took a lot of downfalls with the health this year, but I try to get my teammates to count on me just to be out there. And you're right – I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to play [last] Sunday, but I'm glad I did. I played well, got another pick, and [we] just keep stacking 'Ws.'"
On if it's special to play alongside a guy like CB Marlon Humphrey, who he also played with on the collegiate level: "Oh, yes. Marlon [Humphrey], that's my guy. Like I said yesterday, I've been in many wars with him, so it's definitely not the first go-around, and I'm definitely comfortable playing with him, and it's just a blessing to have that."
On if he's superstitious at all about his hair: "Superstitious? I've been thinking about that. (laughter) Changing the color. I definitely have been thinking about that, but I don't know. Right now, I'm just going to keep it the way it is right now." (laughter)
On if he knew last week that the Ravens might have an opportunity to rush for a few yards after his interception: "No, I didn't know that. (laughter) I didn't know that. I forgot who told me, but I didn't find out until after the game. I was like, 'Oh, OK.' Actually, when we actually ran the (five) yards, I was like, 'Why did we do that?' (laughter) Then, eventually, I caught on at the end – that's all." (laughter) (Reporter: "So, you're a part of the record, then. You can take some credit") "Yes. Yes, I can. I didn't know, but I can – I'm pretty sure."
On if there is more of a weight on him not when he's not sure if he can play due to injury, because of his expanded role: "Oh, yes – definitely. I'm just here to be ready for the team and just prepare and practice. I'm just taking it day by day – just stacking day by day, pretty much."
On what it has been like to get his chance and perform at such a high level: "It's a blessing. And honestly, I'm so locked in that I … I am enjoying it. I am enjoying my success, but I'm just so locked in right now. I'm just taking it game by game, day by day – pretty much."
On if there is an excitement in the secondary that they can reach their full potential: "Yes, we're starting to gel together, as you can see. I think we're definitely playing way better than we were in the beginning of the season. Just during the season, I feel like we get better each game. [We're] just being more comfortable being out there with new guys, new faces, and communicating."
On what having versatile players can do for a defense: "It makes everything easier. So, you can definitely count on the pass rush, you can count on the secondary, [you can count] on everybody doing their job, and it just makes your job easier. Everybody just does their one job, and hopefully, success comes out of it."
On how fun it is to have a multiple defense, where there is frequent blitzing from the secondary: "That makes defense fun. That's just part of defense. I had like two sacks in college, so I want to get a few in the NFL. So, [it] would be a blessing to have that, too."
On his connection with OLB Odafe Oweh, given they're both New Jersey natives: "Yes, that's my guy. When he first came in as a rookie, I kind of was just talking to him to see what he was like. We're [from] different parts of Jersey, but it's all love – same state of Jersey. We just have that special relationship."
On if he feels like he's made a statement with his play to people who may not have known him: "Yes, I'm pretty sure. I definitely think I've made a name for myself. I'm just going to keep stacking, keep working and keep getting better with it, honestly. So, that's it."